Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that the government has no more methods to convince lawmakers who oppose the joint checkpoint arrangement for the new Express Rail Link.
Democrats and the Hong Kong Bar Association have cast doubt over the constitutionality of the mechanism whereby Hong Kong is set to effectively give up its jurisdiction across a quarter of the West Kowloon terminus. Immigration and customs procedures will be performed by mainland law enforcement agents.
The scrutiny process at a legislative bills committee was completed on Monday, amid protests from pro-democracy lawmakers. They were only given one minute each to speak, and officials did not have to respond to questions one by one. The democrats chanted that the bill was unconstitutional and that ceding land was a “shameful” act.
Lam said the scenes of protest were not the first to be seen at the legislature, and such incidents harmed the public’s trust in the political system.
“I believe there is a high chance to pass it, most importantly because it has wide support in society,” she said.
“In the process reviewing the bill, we have answered all questions that we can. In other words, if there are still lawmakers who do not support this bill – we have no more methods to convince them, we can only let the legislature debate and democratically vote on it.”
Lam said the committee held 19 meetings and two public hearings, spending 60 hours on a “simple bill” which only has eight clauses.
She defended New People’s Party lawmaker Regina Ip, chair of the committee, in her handling of the meeting on Monday after she cut short lawmakers’ speaking time.
“I certainly do not subscribe to that sort of attack or accusation against Mrs Regina Ip,” she said. “I think she has tried her very best to conduct the meetings and to allow members to ask questions about this particular bill.”
Lam said she hoped that the bill will be passed before the end of June, so that the high-speed rail system could start operating by the end of September.
Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said Lam’s responsibility was not only to convince lawmakers: “It is also her responsibility to issue a constitutional and legal bill,” she said.
“I hope Carrie Lam will not become the culprit in murdering ‘One Country, Two Systems’.”
She said Ip did not follow meeting rules and often changed her decision during meetings, such as whether lawmakers were allowed to raise questions on procedures.
“Even the chair did not know what she was doing,” she said.